Regular exposure to very loud noise can permanently damage a person’s hearing. The construction industry is particularly guilty when it comes to exposing workers to damaging levels of noise on a regular basis and it will not surprise you to learn that the industry is one sector that is prone to high levels of noise exposure.
Construction noise essentially falls into one of three categories:
- The construction of building projects
- The refurbishment of property
DIY construction noise
Most of us practice some form of DIY in our homes from time to time. Whilst the noise generated by hammering nails into a wall or drilling flat pack furniture together can be irritating to neighbours, DIY noise is not deemed sufficiently regular or excessive to cause hearing damage. As such, permanent hearing damage is unlikely to occur from DIY construction work.
The refurbishment of property
The noise generated by the renovation of a property such as the demolition of walls, the cutting of tiles and the whir of the cement mixer can be disturbing for those residing in close proximity to the property. It can also be a hazard to site workers.
The Control of Pollution Act of 1974 gives the UK’s Environmental Health Department the ability to control noise carried out by building work. According to the Royal Borough of Greenwich, generally speaking, noisy activities related to construction work should only be carried out from Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm, on Saturday from 8am – 1pm and should be prohibited on Sundays and on Bank Holidays.
Examples of noisy construction-based activities include:
- Erecting and dismantling of scaffolding
- Using power tools
- Using hand tools
- Pile driving
- Using plant equipment
- Partition walls
For more information about the codes of practice related to noise generated by small-scale building work, read the Small Scale Construction Handbook.
Major construction noise
As Islington Council states, local authorities generally view construction activity as an indication of a “vibrant economy”. However, councils do recognise that construction sites can create both significant noise disturbance and, potentially, generate off site complaints.
Subsequently, Islington Council have compiled a Code of Practice for Construction Sites to assist building site managers and health and safety managers to meet the necessary standards to help safeguard the health and safety of those working on the site and those residing in close proximity to it.
Measuring construction noise
In order for a building site manager to assess effectively the level of noise being generated on a site, the Health Safety Executive (HSE) have produced a number of noise exposure calculators ready to use on its website. These daily and weekly noise exposure calculators, together with hearing protection calculators and with the help of a sound level meter to enter specific parameters, enable you to work out regular noise exposure and estimate the suitability of hearing protection.
The HSE also offers noise exposure ready-reckoners which will enable you to estimate daily or weekly noise exposure. To use the HSE’s daily exposure ready-reckoner you will need to measure the levels of noise in accordance with good acoustical practice and, importantly, assess the personal exposure to noise on a building site during a working day.
The only way this can be done is by using professional noise measurement technology.
Developers and building contractors should be aware that court cases made by residents living in close proximity to a renovation project are not uncommon. What’s more, many of these cases are successfully won.
One example of this involved a building contractor being ordered to pay damages of just under £100,000 to the owners of the property that adjoined the terrace house the building project was taking place.
Amongst the problems caused by the ongoing work was the scaffolding banging against the wall of the neighbouring property.
Talking about the case, Danny Revitt, a property litigation expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield Office said:
“The decision highlights the importance to businesses in the construction industry of taking into account of the effect of works on the owners and occupiers of neighbouring properties, whether this is in either a commercial or residential context.”
Noise measurement equipment
One way to effectively gauge the levels or types of noise on a construction site and the surrounding areas is by using noise measurement equipment adapted to this environment. Devices such as noise meters, sound level meters and personal noise dosemeters enable health and safety professionals measure levels of noise correctly.
Check out Pulsar Instruments’ large range of noise meters, sound level meters, noise dosemeters and acoustic calibrators to enable health and safety professionals to measure effectively and efficiently levels of noise on a construction site.
Download Pulsar’s FREE Guide for Employers: ‘5 Steps to Controlling Workplace Noise’